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Review: Actors bring Menagerie to life
STARS draws audience in to Tennessee Williams classic
Glass Menagerie Web
The cast, clockwise from left, Carol Thompson, Andrew Akins, Zulema Ibarra and Dalton Titshaw. - photo by Special to the Herald

    Seasoned director Mical Whitaker’s version of “The Glass Menagerie” opens tonight, and viewers will be mesmerized by the cast’s mastery of the Tennessee Williams play.
    The curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. at the Averitt Center for the Arts.  Shows also are set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. The production is presented by the Averitt STARS Community Theater.
    Andrew Akins stars as Tom Wingfield, the narrator as well as a main character, who tells the sad tale of his family during the Depression era.
    His mother Amanda Wingfield, portrayed by Carol Thompson, is a single mother whose husband fell victim to wanderlust and left the family 16 years before.
    Sister Laura Wingfield, portrayed by Zulema Ibarra, is a fragile, timid creature made insecure by a disfigured leg, and the family suffers from poverty, frustration and bitterness.
    Dalton E. Titshaw is delightful as “gentleman caller” Jim O’Connor, who manages to draw out Laura’s shyness, then plunge her into an abyss of hurt within one short visit.
    Tom works in a shoe warehouse to support his family, and chafes underneath the responsibility. His mother’s suffocating control issue makes things much worse, and they live in constant turmoil. Tom waxes violently sarcastic and escapes by going out at night, ostensibly “to the movies.”
    Amanda’s intense desire for her children to have luxuries and a better life makes her fussy and often bitter. Her goal of finding Laura a “gentleman caller” is entwined with living through her daughter’s life, or rather, what she hoped her life would be.
    Laura is lost in her own world, spending her days playing the Victrola and admiring her glass figurines, which come to life in her mind. Timid and retiring, she surrenders to her mother’s will while Tom resists.
    Thompson captures the Southern Belle persona of Amanda Wingfield as if she had lived during the Old South era. Her magnolia-and-mint julep accent drips with charm as she flutters and postures, trite phrases spilling from her lips.
     But in a flash, she can show the other side of Amanda; bitter from being left by her husband and living in poverty; frightened by an insecure future, she lashes out at both her children with a fury, and is almost immediately contrite.
    Akins shows comparable versatility as his character Tom goes from strained patience, sarcasm, anger and helplessness while trying to reconcile his own desires for life with caring for his family.  His versatility is evident as the play moves along; a battle with his mother, a poetic exchange with the audience as he ponders life, and a drunken scene when he returns one night from “the movies.”
    Ibarra is the picture of innocence, timidity and insecurity as she portrays Laura. Throughout the play, Laura’s emotions are evident on Ibarra’s face as the other characters interact. Viewers are drawn into her character as they watch her move between placating her mother, urging her brother to behave, and dealing with bits of life that terrify her, but would be commonplace to most.
    Whitaker’s directing brings each character together to produce a play that operates like a well-oiled machine. Viewers will find themselves emotionally involved with the lives of those they see on stage, and will likely forget they are watching actors bringing a classic to life.
   
    Holli Deal Bragg maybe reached at (912) 489-9414.

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